The Home Theater Mistake We Keep Seeing Over and Over Again

updated Jul 17, 2020
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(Image credit: Minette Hand)

As stone countertops and stainless steel appliances are to a kitchen, a large flat panel television (and a comfy couch) in the living room is to a typical American household. But there’s one continuing trend we’d like to see people stop doing doing: hanging flat screen televisions over the fireplace.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

Read more:
→ The Best Ways to Stylishly Work a TV into a Small Apartment

Both professional installers and ergonomic specialists have long discouraged mounting televisions above the fireplace because of the unnecessary stress it places upon the neck and shoulder muscles (alongside Apartment Therapy readers…check out the comments). Just think about the times you’ve watched TV at a sports bar, or while traveling by plane, with screens above eye level. After a few hours, tension in your neck and shoulders becomes evident. And a reminder, placing your TV above the fireplace may void your TV’s warranty!

A television on top of a low credenza provides the perfect height for comfortable viewing. (Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

Experts recommend the top of the screen should be between 15-35 degrees from the horizontal plane of your eye level (aim for 15 degrees), which means a flat panel mounted above a fireplace isn’t just an eyesore, but sore muscle inducing.

And how far away should you be from your TV? The audio/visual experts from THX report the optimum viewing distance is a position where the display occupies a 40 degree view angle for the viewer*: “minimum viewing distance is set to approximate a 40 degree view angle, and the maximum viewing distance is set to approximate 28 degrees.”

  • 35 inch class TV = 3.5-5 feet away
  • 40 inch class TV = 4-6 feet away
  • 50 inch class TV = 5-7.5 feet away
  • 60 inch class TV = 6-9 feet way
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Don’t believe us? Try this: take your computer screen or laptop and place it ontop of a book or shelf a foot above your seated eye level and try working from there for even 15 minutes. You’ll soon feel shoulder tension, tired eyes, even possible signs of carpal tunnel as your body alignment gets out of whack.

This doesn’t even take into consideration how a sub-optimal viewing angle can affect contrast, brightness, and color accuracy of the picture you’re watching, since HDTV sets are optimized for eye-level, center placement. Even with better viewing angles of modern displays, why shave off any percentage off from a perfect picture? There are a myriad of ways to place and position the TV without compromising the picture or your health.

-Re-edited from a post originally published 4/2/2014 – DF

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)